At age 17, Michael Sayman was Facebook’s youngest employee ever. Having already launched 5 apps, he wowed Mark Zuckerberg, earned a demo spot on stage at Facebook F8 conference, and scored a full-time engineering gig as the social network’s go-to teen. Over the past three years, he helped Facebook try to crack the middle school market with apps like the now defunct Lifestage.
But in August he switched sides, leaving to go work for Google. Yet his arrangement hasn’t stopped the now-21-year-old Sayman from tinkering with apps during his off-hours.
Today he launches his latest, a trivia game called Lies where you try to guess the one true fact about a friend amongst an array of fibs. It follows the social mechanics of his first hit, 4Snaps, which was like Pictionary but where you take four photos instead of drawing to get people to guess the right word.
Facebook is constantly accused of copying competitors like Snapchat, but with Lies, Sayman is returning the favor. Lies mimes the interface of tbh, the anonymous teen compliment sharing app Facebook recently acquired after it hit #1. “The idea came to me as an evolution of the past games I had created, as well as what I noticed was becoming popular on the App Store today.”
In Lies, you first upload your contacts, and then take a Tinder-style profile quiz where you swipe yes or no about questions about yourself. Then you’re given tbh-style four-choice questions about friends with the goal of correctly guessing which tribia tidbit about them is true. The statements range from “I’ve gone skinny dipping” to “I’m afraid of crowds” to “I’ve kissed someone on the first date”.
When friends answer questions about you, you get notified. “This game ends friendships” it declares, as you might learn who doesn’t really know you or thinks the worst about you.
That’s about it. Sayman proudly says he built the app over just two weekends before joining Google, so it’s thin and might still be a bit buggy. An Android version is in the works.
While a cute idea, Lies may succumb to impatience and vanity. It takes a few minutes of non-stop self-interviewing to answer enough questions to fill your profile and unlock the game. Some teens may flake before ever getting that far. And people might lie when answering some of the lewder or defamatory questions, like whether they’ve ever peed in the shower or stolen money from their grandparents. That breaks the game because friends’ guesses are irrelevant if the source of truth is fake news.
You could see Lies as the devil-on-your-shoulder counterpart to the tbh angel. The racier questions might draw people in, but the constant dealing in shameful topics could get exhausting. Still, Lies is another step towards Sayman cracking the code with a hit mobile app. He’s been building them since he was 13. And with Snapchat, Facebook, Houseparty, and other startups all chasing the teen market, Sayman’s combination of youth and experience make him a hot commodity.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Constine is a technology journalist who specializes in deep analysis of social products. He is currently an Editor-At-Large for TechCrunch.
Previously, Constine was the Lead Writer of Inside Facebook, where he covered Facebook product changes, privacy, ads, ecommerce, games, and music technology.
Constine graduated from Stanford University in 2009 with a Master’s degree in Cybersociology, examining the influence of technology on social interaction. He researched the impact of privacy controls on the socialization of children, meme popularity cycles, and what influences the click through rate of links posted to Twitter.
Constine also received a Bachelor of Arts degree with honors from Stanford University in 2007, with a concentration in Social Psychology & Interpersonal Processes.
Josh Constine is an experienced public speaker, and has done on-stage inteviews with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, Dropbox CEO Drew Houston, SoundCloud CEO Alex Ljung, and Senator Cory Booker. He’s been quoted by The Wall Street Journal, CNN Money, The Atlantic, BBC World Magazine, Slate, and more, plus has been featured on television on NBC and Fox News. Constine is available for speaking gigs.
[Disclosures: Josh Constine advised a college friend’s social location-sharing startup codenamed ‘Signal’ that was based in San Francisco before dissolving in 2015. This advising role was cleared with AOL and TechCrunch’s editors. Constine’s cousin Darren Lachtman is the founder of Niche, which connects social media stars to sponsorships from brands, and was acquired by Twitter. Constine has personal relationships stemming from college housing with founders at Skybox Imaging (now Terra Bella), Hustle, Snapchat, and Robinhood. Constine occasionally does paid speaking engagements at conferences funded by companies he does not cover. Constine owns a small position in Ethereum cryptocurrency.]
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